Good practice when working with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds

Content type
Event date

13 May 2015, 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm (AEST)


Nadine Liddy, Heather Stewart


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About this webinar

This webinar was held on 13 May 2015.

In this webinar, Nadine Liddy and Heather Stewart explored good practice when working with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, using the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network’s soon-to-be released national Youth Settlement Framework (YSF).    

The YSF is Australia's first national framework for understanding and responding to the needs of young people in the settlement context. It will support a national approach to good practice in youth settlement, with the aim that all young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds receive the support they need to become active participants in Australian society.    

Good practice with this group of young people and their families is often complex and dynamic, and the webinar provided an opportunity to explore this complexity in detail.    
The Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network    

The Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (Australia), MYAN, is the national policy and advocacy body on multicultural youth issues. Auspiced by the Centre for Multicultural Youth in Victoria, the MYAN works with young people, government and the non-government sectors to promote the unique needs and issues for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

Audio transcript (edited)

Webinar facilitated & speaker introduced by Kathryn Goldsworthy


My name is Kat Goldsworthy and I'm a research officer here at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. This webinar is part of a series of resources we are currently releasing on working with culturally and linguistically diverse adolescents. A practitioner resource and series of short articles are already available on the website and we will send you the links to these after today's presentation. Before I introduce our speakers, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we are meeting. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and to the Elders from other communities who may be participating today.

It is now my pleasure to introduce today's presenters, Nadine Liddy and Heather Stewart. Nadine Liddy is the National Coordinator of the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network and has worked in the youth and multicultural sectors for over 20 years. Heather Stewart has been working as the Coordinator in the South East for the Centre for Multicultural Youth for the past six years. You can find further information about Nadine and Heather's work on our website.

Now I just need to alert you to some brief housekeeping details before I hand over to Nadine. One of the core functions of the CFCA information exchange is to share knowledge so I'd like to remind everyone that they can submit questions via the chat box at any time during the webinar. There will be a limited amount of time for questions at the end of today's presentation and we will try to respond to as many as possible.

We also want you to continue the conversation we begin here. To facilitate this, we have set up a forum on the CFCA website where you can discuss the ideas and issues raised and share your own experiences. We will send you a link to the forum at the end of the webinar. Please remember that this webinar is being recorded and the audio transcript and presentation slides will be made available on the CFCA website and YouTube channel in due course. So without further ado, please join with me in giving Nadine and Heather a very warm virtual welcome.


Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here today. Both Heather and I are always very keen to talk about good practice with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, so it's a pleasure to spend the next 45 minutes with you all. The way we've structured this afternoon's session is that I will provide a bit of an overview of who the MYAN is. Some of you may be familiar with our work but I'll give a brief overview of who we are, what we do, why we exist, and then I'll talk specifically about this framework that will be the focus of today – the national Youth Settlement Framework.

I'll provide some information about what the framework is, why we've developed it and what we hope to achieve through that national framework, and then we're going to hone in on a section of the framework which outlines the sort of good practice principles for working with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and, of course, achieving good settlement for that group of young people. Heather will take over at that point and provide some detail or put some detail to those good practice principles. Heather is going to apply those principles to practice, and probably we'll have time to unpack three or four of those.

Okay so who is the MYAN, the national Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network? We're Australia's only peak body representing multicultural youth issues. We've been in existence for almost ten years, since about 2005. We're auspiced by the Centre for Multicultural Youth in Victoria and I'll talk a little bit about who CMY is in a moment. We work in partnership, as the slides indicate. We work in partnership with young people, government and non-government agencies, and we work nationally, so we have partners at the state and territory level as well as nationally.

As a network, we have partners specifically with MYAN affiliated bodies in every state and territory, so we have a MYAN Queensland network, MYAN New South Wales, WA, TAS, MYAN ACT. Part of the MYAN's work is to support the development of those networks in each of the states and territories and we have had a specific focus on capacity building work in New South Wales. I'm pleased to say that MYAN New South Wales became an independent organisation last December. So that's the first ever multicultural youth specialist organisation in New South Wales, which was very exciting for us. So the MYAN exists to promote the needs and issues for young people from refugee and migrant background, and I'll talk a bit more about why we think this group of young people have unique needs.

The other key part of our work is to support a national approach or a nationally coordinated approach to youth settlement and supporting young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds across Australia. The other part of our work is to support young people directly to develop leadership and advocacy skills. We certainly believe that this group of young people often don't have their voices heard. They're often marginalised from forums or structures to communicate what they think and what they need. We have a national Youth Advisory Group and we ran a first ever national multicultural youth event last October in Sydney and a few of our photos from that event will come up through the slide presentation today.

The other thing I should say in terms of our policy and sector development work – we develop a range of resources to support good practice with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and support the building of an evidence base, certainly for our policy and advocacy work, but also for service delivery. There are a range of resources on our website. A couple of them just to flag is a report that we did with Graeme Hugo last year looking at the 2011 census data. That was the first ever report that did some analysis through a CALD youth lens, so we looked at what the census data was saying about young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. That report is available on our website, as are a couple of recently released info sheets looking at humanitarian youth arrivals and some data around that. So those resources are up on our website as well as a range of others.

CMY very quickly, as I said before, is our auspice organisation. I won't run through each of those points on the slide but probably suffice to say that CMY is one of only a few multicultural youth specialist organisations that exist nationally. CMY has a sister organisation in South Australia, Multicultural Youth South Australia, and of course MYAN New South Wales, which is now an independent multicultural youth specialist service and a very small one in the ACT Multicultural Youth Services, but CMY has been around for about 25 years and is the largest multicultural youth specialist organisation. I should say also there are a range of resources, since I'm talking resources, on the CMY website. There's a range of resources, toolkits, policy reports that can be downloaded for free from the CMY website. I'd encourage you to do a bit of a scout around on the MYAN and the CMY websites after today.

Okay so why do we have this focus on young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds? What's so special, why do we need a targeted approach? I'll talk some more about what their particular needs are. About a quarter of Australia's young people between 12 and 24 are from a refugee or migrant background, or they may also be second generation, which means they are born in Australia to migrant or refugee parents, parents from a refugee background, and again that information is from the 2011 census. Twenty per cent of all migrants arriving in Australia between 2008 and 2014, so that six period, are young people. That's encompassing Australia's broader migration program, the family migration program and also the humanitarian and skilled migration programs.

So within those formal migration programs, 20 per cent of all arrivals are young people and about a third of humanitarian entrants, so those coming into Australia as refugees through the humanitarian program in that six year period between 2008 and 2014, about a third are young people. I should also say consistently over the last six years, if you looked at the stats, the stats of arrivals under the age of 25, it's about

46 per cent so almost half. Now of course that takes into account children, so outside of our sort of remit under 12, but it is a very, very large proportion of the humanitarian program, and all up about a quarter of the 20 per cent, about a third, there's significant numbers in the scheme of those arrivals.

We believe that young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds have particular needs and they have particular circumstances that often mean they face more complex barriers to accessing the support that they need in Australian society. They often navigate or negotiate more complex transitions than their Australian born counterparts. So we certainly believe that this group of young people – because of a range of factors, culture, language, gender, unfamiliarity with Australian society, culture, unfamiliarity with Australia's very complex service system, whether that's the education system, the health system or whatever else, we have a very complex service system – often come to Australia without any point of reference in terms of the magnitude of Australia's service system. Often there aren't similar concepts or even practically they don't necessarily have the knowledge to navigate the service system.

So often this group of young people don't have their needs met in the broader settlement sector and in the broader generalist or mainstream youth sector. We certainly see ourselves working between the broader youth sector and the broader settlement sector because this group of young people's needs often get overlooked in both those sectors and I'll say a little bit more about that because it's very fundamental to the work that we do. Often in the broader settlement sector, service delivery and programs are designed around the needs of family groups or adult males so the particular circumstances for young people and that development stage of adolescence often is overlooked and it doesn't really get the attention that it needs.

In the broader youth sector, often service delivery is designed around the needs of Australian-born young people. Factors around culture, the settlement experience, pre-arrival experiences, particularly for refugee and humanitarian entrants, aren't really taken into account. So we work across both of those sectors, endeavouring to promote the needs and issues of young people, and, of course, to address their needs in policy and service delivery. We certainly believe that it's the intersection of the settlement sector and the youth sector. That intersection is where good practice with this group of young people lies and we'll talk a little bit more about that today.

The national Youth Settlement Framework. Now I'm just going to skip through to Slide 10 here because I think the flow of information works a little bit more logically. The purpose of the framework – it's Australia's first framework for articulating the needs of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and providing some guidance for responding to those needs. So we've described it as a conceptual framework for understanding and responding to the needs of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. It's relevant for those who are in policy making positions, as well as service delivery planning or delivery – so service planning or delivery.

As I said before, it provides some guidance on good practice and there is a set of supplementary resources that will sit alongside the main document. The other important thing to say about the framework is that we think it's really important because it's designed to be relevant and applicable for everyone who is working with young people. It's designed to support practitioners and policy makers, anyone who is engaging with young people to support their settlement in Australia. I'll talk a bit more about some principles that inform the framework in a moment.

So the purpose is to improve good practice to achieve some better responses for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and this framework is intended to support a more targeted approach to meeting their particular needs. And the rationale – why have we developed this framework? I've talked a little about the why. It's because we believe that this group of young people have particular needs,. They often fall through the gaps, and I've talked a little bit about why that is. We believe in the importance of a targeted approach. Ideally what we're wanting is that young people receive the support they need to actively participate in all aspects of Australian society – economically, socially, politically and culturally.

So some key principles that underpin the framework. Again I've talked about the particular needs of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds but that's about the development stage of adolescence. It's about the refugee and migration experience and the settlement experience, so the experiences that they may have had prior to arrival in Australia and also the particular challenges and stresses that are part of the settlement process.

And I'll just pick up on that last point on this slide – that good settlement outcomes for young people is the responsibility of all services. So from time to time we're quizzed on our approach about a targeted response to meet the needs of this group of young people and sometimes people say: "Isn't that just designing services for one group and not for everyone?" And our response all the time is that this is part of access and equity. In fact, we want services to be available and responsive and accessible to all young people regardless of their cultural background, their language background, regardless of their particular circumstances, but often that's not the case. So a key principle of the framework is really access and equity, and we certainly believe that supporting young people in the settlement journey is a responsibility of all services, whether you have a particular focus on working with multicultural young people or not.

Okay so we've talked about why we've designed the framework, some of the principles that inform the framework and its purpose and scope. What I should say about its scope is that we hope that it will be something that is utilised by government, either local government, state government or Commonwealth government, as well as the NGO sector, in designing services for young people. So we're hoping that it will have a broad reach and we've designed the document to serve that purpose.

Okay so what's in this framework? What are these good settlement outcomes that I've been talking about? We have framed the optimal outcome for young people in terms of good settlement as being active citizenship. Some of you may or may not be familiar with this concept. I think it's something that has got a little bit – or it's become a little bit more prominent in some policy work, certainly in Victoria and in some of the other states, but we have specifically designed the framework around the concept of active citizenship because we believe it is most suitable to the context of young people. What we mean by active citizenship is that it's an inclusive term, so it's not just about young people who have formal citizenship status in Australia. It's not that at all. It's a much broader understanding of citizenship, and it's about proactive engagement and participation in a whole range of aspects of Australian society. I'll talk a little bit more about those dimensions and the indicators in just a moment.

The other thing to say about active citizenship is that it's fundamentally about participation and belonging, and I'm going to quote from Roger Hart here: "It's the process of sharing decisions which affect one's life and the life of a community in which one lives. It's the means by which democracy is built." The other important thing to say is active citizenship assumes the acquisition of social capital and agency, and for those of you who have a youth work background, the concept of building a young person's agency is really central to good youth work practice. What we mean by agency is acquiring or being supported to develop the skills, knowledge and networks, and we're building those skills, knowledge and networks – sorry, we're building young people's skills knowledge and networks so that they can participate actively and in a sustained way in the social, cultural, political and economic facets of Australian society. So that's what we mean by active citizenship.

The dimensions that we talk about in the framework are the various areas of engagement with young people or the various aspects of a young person's life, and those key areas or dimensions are social participation, economic participation, civic participation and personal wellbeing. And I know it's in our framework document that will be released at the end of June. We will have some diagrams that will assist in pulling all of this together. It doesn't quite do it justice in dot points on a PowerPoint slide but I'll provide a bit of an explanation now.

Those dimensions can be used to identify key aspects of a young person's life that need to be supported in order to achieve active citizenship. This support is fundamentally, as I said before, about building a young person's agency, they're knowledge, skills, confidence and networks. The indicators that I'll talk about in a moment, I'll unpack that a little bit more, can also be understood as the key tasks or competencies for achieving active citizenship. So there is a set of indicators in each of the dimensions and I've just realised that you might be a little bit lost because I've jumped from dimensions, those overarching areas, to indicators.

So there's a set of indicators in each of those settlement dimensions. I should also just say that when we came up with those settlement dimensions, we did draw on some work of the Centre for Multicultural Youth, CMY, the UNHCR, and also some work that in its previous form DIAC, Department of Immigration, which the settlement area is now in DSS, they had some work about articulating a settlement framework. And they also used those dimensions settlement – they called them settlement dimensions of economic, social, civic participation, and we have added personal wellbeing. And the way I understand those dimensions is that they very much intersect and overlap, and I'll talk some more about the indicators that sit within each of those.

So economic participation, some of the indicators or the areas of a young person's life where they may need support might be developing English language proficiency, supporting them to be engaged in pathways towards employment, supporting them to have a stable income and supporting them to have safe and stable housing. When we're looking at social participation, those indicators include supporting a young person to participate in community life, whatever that looks like. That might include volunteering activities; it might be supporting them to be engaged in cultural or religious activities. There's a whole range of volunteering options and opportunities.

A couple of other indicators within social participation are supporting young people to be free from racism and discrimination, and/or, which is probably more realistic, that they're able to manage experiences of racism and discrimination, supporting young people to have positive peer networks and also supporting young people around building, bridging and bonding networks, which is really critical to active citizenship and those concepts of belonging and engagement.

In terms of civic participation, some of the indicators are understanding and enjoying Australia's political and civil rights, so it would be supporting young people to access information about Australia's political and civil rights. It would be supporting them to participate in democratic processes or political decision-making, supporting young people to understand and enjoy their legal rights and also, again like social participation, supporting them to participate in volunteering activities.

In terms of person wellbeing, some of the indicators that sit under this are supporting young people to build positive relationships with peers, family and community; supporting young people to build a positive sense of self or self-esteem; supporting young people to build positive physical, mental and sexual health or to maintain good health across those areas; to support young people to set goals for the future and build an understanding of the pathways that they may need to navigate to achieve those goals and to support them along those pathways; supporting young people to develop life skills; and also supporting young people to build or negotiate positive intergenerational relationship in Australia and overseas.

And if we put – I'm aware that that's a lot of information – but if we put those various aspects together, we believe that the outcome is active citizenship for young people, where they have skills in navigating multicultural identity, they are building a sense of belonging in Australian society and obviously there are broader factors around feeling a sense of belonging in Australian society so there are broader structural and social factors that influence that.

As active citizens, they would positively express cultural and their religious beliefs and by that we mean that they have some freedom to engage with cultural and religious expression. Often that's a very sensitive, dynamic and complex area of a young person's life. As active citizens, they would have a good understanding of Australian culture and society, again as complex, dynamic and fluid as that may be, and they would also have the skills, knowledge, networks and confidence to access and navigate a range of services.

A couple of things just to say before we move onto some good practice principles. In terms of young people being the core of this work, we know that some of these indicators are complex tasks that might take time and we know that some young people will accomplish these more quickly than others. Some will revisit a number of these areas, as they require more targeted support at different times in their lives. And for many young people, they will move in and out of needing support or accessing the service system in their settlement journey and also in their journey to adulthood, because, as we know, neither the settlement journey nor the developmental stage of adolescence are linear processes.

So I really want to emphasise that. We certainly see this whole concept of achieving active citizenship across those dimensions, engaged in the activities, which are the indicators, we are saying that that is a dynamic process. There's nothing linear about that and some people will need particular support at particular times to navigate those tasks and build their skills and knowledge and confidence.

I think the last thing just to say about those indicators is they can also be understood as competencies for achieving active citizenship. And one of the additional resources that we have developed that will support the framework is something that we're calling an audit tool or a checklist for service providers to use, to review or reflect on how their service might be tracking in terms of supporting young people to achieve good settlement. That audit tool will tease out some of those indicators that I've run through today.

And I should say just in terms of the framework, before I move onto some of the good practice principles, the framework has been informed by national consultations that we held last year. We held consultations in every state and territory with service providers and we ran some with young people in some states and territories. I should say that people really said – certainly service providers said: "We're really, really pleased to see this work and the focus on young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, but we don't want a framework that we can't apply to our practice", and they said it loud and clear. So we don't want a document that sounds nice and looks good and is purely conceptual, even though there's some value in that. For us to be able to support young people and support achieving active citizenship, we would like some resources that assist us to apply the framework to practice. So that's what we've done and that audit tool will be one of those.

The other part of the framework is that it provides some good practice principles that underpin achieving good settlement and really kind of sit at the core of working across those dimensions to achieve those indicators or in those areas. Those good practice principles are – there are eight of them – they're on your slide, but I'm just going to run through them. Cultural competency, youth centred and strengths based, youth development and participation, trauma informed, family aware, flexibility and responsiveness, collaboration and advocacy. What I'm going to do now is hand over to Heather, who is going to unpack some of those good-practice principles and talk about how they might apply to practice.


Thank you, Nadine. Yes, so I thought I'd have a look at those and think about what we did in our day-to-day work in my Dandenong office, our teamwork with newly arrived refugee young people and see if I could give an example of what I thought that meant in case that would assist you to understand. I've just picked three of them. One of them, the first one, is the cultural competency. When I first came into the multicultural sector, because I'm a youth worker for most of my 30 years, that was the one I was quite unclear what it meant. I think the most useful definition I've come to use, which I hope will be useful for some of you, is a sense that when you are working with migrant and refugee young people, it is good to establish a sense of having a conversation with your clients about culture.

So not to presume that what we know is best and that what we have in our culture has all the answers, and not to try and assume that we know all that we need to know about their culture, to accept that we come into a relationship with someone from a different culture, with a certain degree of uncertainty and often different understandings of a whole lot of key concepts that are critical to our work. And so to give an example, if I'm going to talk to a newly arrived young woman about sexual health, I may do that in a very different way than I would if I was talking to someone who was Australian born. I might need to start with thinking about the language that I use. The language of sexual health in Australian is rich and complex. We have quite a lot of complexity in terms of how we describe different sexual acts, different sexual identities, sexual preferences. We have an extensive vocabulary about describing our bodies, but this may not be the case for someone who is newly arrived from a culture, where it is not part of their culture to talk in an explicit sense about sex.

I might need to have a conversation with them about whether they ever talk about sex. In Western society we talk about sex a lot, it's a large part of growing up that we encourage young people to talk about sex, but it may not be part of the culture of other people, who might find that sex is something that you do not talk and you certainly do not talk about with someone who you do not know already in an intimate sense. And so with that sense, the conversation becomes, "Well in Australia I might talk to my young people, my young people in my service or I might talk to my children about sex”, and this is what I might say: “What might happen in your culture? Who might talk to you about these things? Would anyone talk about it? Do you have a word? We in Australia call people who are interested in this, you know, or in people from the same sex same sex attracted. Do you have an equivalent one?"

So you have a conversation and it's not going to be necessarily an easy conversation or a clear conversation but it enables you to come to an understanding that they have entered the issue of sexual health with different cultural baggage and with different cultural understandings. So there's a little bit of give and a little bit of take. As an example of that, we found that in our sexual health work with young women, it was helpful to understand that they may come into that discussion with an expectation that they were not necessarily going to have sex with anyone until they were married.

So yes, it's the sense of a conversation, which is not an easy space to be in. It's one where you're open to learning and it's one where you need to be sensitively curious. You need to show interest in their culture of origin but in a way that is sensitive and appropriate. And in that space, you know, we are always learning. We are always learning more. You don't get to a point where you go, "Oh I now know how to talk to Burmese young women about sex", or ,"I now know how to talk to Afghan young men about sex". That sense of a conversation continues throughout your work, so that's one example.


Heather, if I can just add to that. I think no one is ever culturally competent and that's the nature of culture. It is dynamic, it's complex, it's fluid and that's the nature of working in a culturally competent way. I'd like to emphasise your point about asking young people about culture because I think in a lot of the training that I've done, people really want strategies and they want concrete strategies, and I've now learnt to frame having conversations, as you just have Heather, as being a really important strategy. Don't underestimate the importance of a genuine conversation with young people about their culture and their cultural background.

I think sometimes we assume that they will have had those conversations many times but I'm not sure that that's the case and I think that enquiry and having conversations about culture is really critical. It also allows us to reflect on our own culture and our own cultural assumptions, of which there are many, and we are – everyone is loaded with cultural assumptions, but we don't always take the time to reflect on that.


No and each person goes in with their own different expectations. I might have a conversation with one young Afghan woman about her understanding of sex, but then the following week another young woman might come in who has quite a different, so that's the other common mistake. People say: "What do I need to know when I'm going to talk to blah?" But in actual fact, each young person will also be shaped not only by their culture of origin but their particular refugee experience, their particular family context, how well they've settled, their personality. They are, you know, very, very different so there's no, unfortunately, quick tick sheet: "When I'm talking to a young Afghan man about sex, this is what I can expect". It continues to be a need to have that conversation, same as all the people talking to them in Australia come with different expectations and ideas and beliefs and assumptions.

So that was one example. The other one I pulled out, which I thought might be useful to talk about is being family aware. We find in our work with adolescent young people that the family are a key part of our capacity to work effectively. Young adolescents in families in Australia play a key role, particularly refugee young people, because they are often the first point of contact to the service system, frequently because they adapt to Australia at a more rapid rate than their parents. They may be learning English at a more rapid rate and are more capable of adapting to change, so that different rate of acculturation means that when you're working with an adolescent, you're often working with someone who is also responsible for a whole lot of tasks within families that are enabling families to do well. What frequently comes up, if young people who we are working with, their families are travelling well, they will travel well. But if their families are not travelling well, they will often be carrying a burden of needing to compensate for that.

An example of being family aware in our work, we find it's really important to seek to build trust with the family, to try and get an understanding of what the pressures on the family might be, and then, where possible, try to work to assist the families to overcome some of those issues, which can in turn become barriers for the young people. To give an example, we might be working with an adolescent young person who has some specific support issues in terms of being able to attend a school. But when we scratch the surface, we find that inability to go to school may well be because they carry a whole set of responsibilities for getting younger siblings to school as well, that their mother may not have the capacity to support those young people to attend school herself. They frequently may not drive, and so a whole lot of responsibilities fall on the young person.

Something quite practical like sourcing a range of bikes so the family are not needing to go on four buses to get one kid to a primary school, another kid to a different school and then them onto their high school can be quite useful. Or it might be assisting the mother with a health issue, which has led her to keeping the young person at home because she needs assistance around the house or she needs the young person to go with her for medical appointments.

If you can try and identify what pressures there might be on a family – most family workers will be aware of this but for youth workers this is often quite new – a picture of the specific pressures on families can help you to work out where your ends are for providing support, which then increases your capacity for the young person you're working with to take up opportunities you'll put in front of them and then can assist them to travel better. So that's just another example – family aware. Do you want me to go straight into the third one?


Yes I think so, Heather.


The third one. Okay, the third principle I picked up was the flexibility and responsiveness, and for this I'm just going to talk about a colleague of ours down in Dandenong, but he doesn't know he's being mentioned so if you're listening, Phil. Phil Stark from the City of Casey was keen to get some camps up for young people in his region and he found when he advertised it, he had very poor take-up from a lot of the newly arrived refugee families who had daughters. Rather than just saying, "Oh well, you know, refugee families are not likely to send their daughters to camps", he ran the camp in the first year and then invited the families with daughters to come down just for the day. He said, "You don't need to leave your daughter with strangers; they don't need to stay overnight, but you can come with your daughter and see what we're doing"'.

I can't remember what the carrot was but he had something like – most refugee families we work with are very keen, and migrants, for their children to do well. So if you put something in front of them like, "This will assist your child to do better at school or might help them to get part time work", they're often very happy to do something. So he arranged something that made it attractive, he picked them up in buses, he took them to the camp and the families could see what the camp was about because they had no equivalent in their culture of origin. He got an opportunity to show what sleeping arrangements were like, who was responsible for this and what type of things they were going to get out of it. The second year on, families said, "I would like to send my daughter". So he got a small number of daughters in the second year and then from that experience those families then went and spoke to other families. In the third year, again a significant increase.

Now that's just an example. I think if you continue to do what we normally do and just send out fliers, you may not get any pickup. But if you are a youth service and you're keen to get these young people in your group, if you can make a one-off investment of getting to know the families and perhaps doing something quite creative like picking them up and taking them, and giving them a chance to understand what it is that we do, then often that will snowball into young people being more able to participate in programs because you build that trust, which is often critical to get young people in the door. It is often a second or third step that needs to be taken, but having done so, you can really build opportunities for families to participate in your programs.


I think, Heather, that's a really great example of a program that's culturally competent or is, you know, applying cultural competency principles to that program. I think it picks up on some of the other good practice principles around flexibility and responsiveness. They've responded to a gap or an identified gap that there's a particular group of young women not attending, rather than going: "Ah well you know we – you know, it's a bit of a shame but there's nothing really we can do about it", or, "How about we translate the flier and send that home?" They've actually gone a couple of extra steps there:

"What else do we really – what is really needed here to engage this group of young women?" What was really needed was building the knowledge and the understanding, and I would suggest that's building social capital for family members to give permission, because, as you've said, the concept of camps for those of us who have grown up in Australia, we can picture what it might look like, we can immediately – we've probably been on them in primary or secondary school – we can picture what the sleeping arrangements look like et cetera et cetera. We have some idea of what the activities would be. Often that level of knowledge is just not - - -


Not there.


Not there for these families. In fact, even worse, the concept of a camp for families who've spent time in a refugee camp is actually loaded very much in the negative.


Yeah and they also may underestimate the potential for young people to grow from the experience. I think most parents will know when they've sent their kid off on the first camp how much they grow and we know that this contributes value. But a lot of migrant and refugee families don't know that these things actually give young people greater capacity to be more skilled in a range of areas, same as they sometimes underestimate the value of a part time job or the value of participating in sports programs.

So we do need to make that extra effort because all of these things – camps, part time jobs – build social capital and enable migrant and refugee young people to be that little bit more ready for participating in the world of work at the end of school. But the capacity to recognise the value of that might not be there, so going that extra length is very important for equity concerns, because it is great if migrant and refugee young people get to participate in sport and camps and programs. It's a great loss if they don't, because their families have no trust or no understanding of the value of these.


Or in fact, Heather, no capacity to allow their young people to engage in those activities because there are family responsibilities, and you talked a little bit about that before. So even if there is a conceptual understanding, practically young people have some other responsibilities. But again, I think that taps into what you were talking about, about working in a family aware way and being able to support families or working with other agencies to support them to - with some other resources to carry, aware to the other pressures. Heather, I'm just conscious of time and I'm not sure how many questions we have had come through but did you want to say anything more about flexibility and responsiveness? That was the other one, because we had touched on that a little bit.


Well that was the camp example, but that's something we've had to do in our work too. We've had to go and meet families, but that is part of our normal work – to work with families. But yes, in many instances we have needed to be flexible about how we promote programs. We have found if you just send out fliers and do what you normally do, you may not get a great uptake but if you can make that extra step of perhaps attending an English language class where you already have refugee young people in attendance and meeting them over perhaps two different occasions, would be better than one, and talking about what it is you offer, you're more likely to get them. Or as I said before, try and meet families yourself. So, flexibility in terms of how you engage can be really important.


I just thought of something else, Heather, too about culture competency, before I jump to the next slide, but I think one of the key messages that I often give in training is if there's one thing that you take away, it's that young people are often your best cultural teachers. But I think it also taps into the flexibility and responsiveness, and being family aware because I think if young people are your sort of starting and ending point, so if you ask young people what they need or how we might address this situation, they will tell you. It's just that often as service providers, we feel like we can't be as responsive as is needed either because of program guidelines or funding or organisational policies or procedures, e.g. outreach, or visiting young people at home after hours. Sometimes our organisations don't support that, but really that's exactly what's needed and that is organisations being more culturally responsive and competent. It's genuinely being flexible and responsive et cetera et cetera.

To wrap up our presentation, I did want to pick up on the practice principle around a strengths-based approach. I'm sure most of you are familiar with what that means. Sometimes we spend a bit of time when we're talking about the circumstances and needs of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds talking about all their needs and that their needs are complex, and their needs are high, and they have particular needs, and they need more targeted support. But it's really important to remember that they also have enormous potential and enormous strengths.

And I like this quote – we've adapted it from CMY – but it's just picking up that particularly for young people who have come to Australia with refugee backgrounds, they may have been asylum seekers in Australia. But others who have had difficult migration experiences, you know, often they have survived incredible circumstances. They've been adaptable, they have been resourceful and they've been resilient, and they've often had to navigate an array of complex cultural settings. So they come with an awareness of many cultures and a level of cultural competency themselves to navigate cross-cultural situations, of course, which Australia is, that's what we've got every day.

They often have broad international knowledge, multilingual skills and, of course, for those of us who've worked directly with this group of young people, often a very strong desire to achieve educationally, get a good job, support their family. So I really just want to emphases a strength-based approach. I guess in summary, you know, the reason we've developed a framework, the reason the MYAN exists and certainly the work that Heather and CMY does is that we know that this group of young people have enormous potential. We also know that they often need particular targeted support to reach that potential.



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Slide outline

  1. Good practice with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds
    • Nadine Liddy, National Coordinator Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (Australia)
    • Heather Stewart, Regional Service s Coordinator, South-East Centre for Multicultural Youth
    • Please note the views expressed in this presentation are those of the presenters and may not reflect those of the Australian Institute of Family Studies or the Australian Government.
  2. The MYAN
    • National peak body representing multicultural youth issues
    • Works in partnership with young people, government and non-government agencies at the state/territory and national levels
    • State/territory networks – MYAN QLD, MYAN NSW, MYAN WA, MYAN TAS, MYAN ACT
  3. The MYAN
    • Promote the unique needs and issues facing young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds
    • Support a coherent and consistent approach to addressing these needs in policy and service delivery – policy and sector development
    • Support young people to develop leadership and advocacy skills – FUSE event, national Youth Advisory Group
  4. Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY)
    • Victorian not-for-profit organisation
    • Supports young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds to build better lives in Australia
    • Works to ensure that young people have every opportunity  to succeed
    • Specialist support services, training and consultancy, knowledge sharing and advocacy work
  5. Young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds
    • 25% of Australia’s young people (aged 12-24) are from a CALD background
    • 20% of all migrants between 2008 and 2014
    • Approximately one-third of Humanitarian entrants between 2008 – 2014
    • Particular needs and circumstances - sub-group within the broader mainstream youth population and/or the multicultural population
  6. Image of CALD adolescents participating in a collaborative task.
  7. Image of CALD adolescents in FUSE T-shirts.
  8. National Youth Settlement Framework - rationale
    • Young people experience settlement in ways distinct from adults - age, developmental stage and position within the family
    • Often ‘fall through gaps’ - broader settlement or mainstream youth service system
    • Importance of a targeted approach - address needs & support sustained participation and engagement Australian society
  9. National Youth Settlement Framework – key principles
    • Particular settlement needs of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds – adolescence, refugee/migration experience, settlement
    • Good settlement outcomes - targeted approach in service planning and delivery to ensure that barriers are overcome and needs are met
    • Good settlement outcomes for young people - responsibility of all services
  10. National Youth Settlement Framework – purpose & scope
    • Conceptual framework for those developing policy and services  
    • Guidance on good practice – supported by practical resources
    • Inform policy/program development & service delivery across government and the non-government sectors
    • All areas of young people’s engagement with services to support their settlement in Australia
  11. National Youth Settlement Framework – good settlement outcomes
    • Active citizenship  
    • Dimensions – Social, Economic, Civic Participation & Personal Well-Being
    • Set of indicators in each dimension
    • Good practice principles – service delivery level
  12. Image of happy CALD youth at FUSE event.
  13. National Youth Settlement Framework – good practice principles
    • Cultural competency
    • Youth centred and strengths-based
    • Youth development and participation
    • Trauma informed 
    • Family-aware 
    • Flexibility and responsiveness
    • Collaboration
    • Advocacy
  14. Recognising strengths
    • Despite the immense challenges of the refugee & asylum seeking experience, young people settle in Australia with a range of resources and strengths. They have survived, adapted, been strong, resourceful, responsible, and resilient. They often have broad international knowledge, multilingual skills, an awareness of many cultures and communities and often a strong desire to achieve educationally and/or work.
    • Adapted from CMY
  15. Image of CALD youth participating in a lecture.
  16. Contacts
    • Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network Nadine Liddy (National Coordinator) email,,
    • Heather Stewart Centre for Multicultural Youth email,,
    • Join the conversation
      • A forum where you can discuss the issues raised during the webinar, access related resources and ask further questions, is now available on the CFCA website:
Related resources

Further reading and resources


Nadine Liddy is the National Coordinator of the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN Australia). Nadine has a background in service delivery and program management with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and has worked extensively in policy, advocacy and sector development. Nadine has also worked in the international context, undertaking research and advocacy on refugee and asylum seeker issues and supporting youth engagement in regional and global opportunities.

Heather Stewart worked at the Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) for over 7 years, managing a range of programs that support migrant and refugee young people. These included the Newly Arrived Specialist Reconnect service which supported young people at risk of family breakdown, and the My Family project which explored how family services could better support CaLD families parenting adolescents. Heather has also worked at the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria and as an academic teaching youth work.